The Cook – Ginger Strivelli

“I am the cook. I am always the cook. I’ve cooked for Kings. Ramses The Great, Attila The Hun, and Ivan The Terrible have all sung my pies praises. I was cooking on the Mayflower and the first moon cruise ship. I cooked pork in cherries on the first fire lit by a human. Now I cook on the space station orbiting Saturn.

The uppity-ups who run the station think they are running the universe or at least this solar system. If they only knew what I knew. If they only knew what I was.

They think they are so advanced. Dear old Ramses thought so too, way back then. I’d just smile when he went on and on about all the advancements in knowledge that had come under his rule. Well, he had a point. They made some impressive leaps there that hundred years. Alas,most of it was lost when the library in Alexandria burned years later. Just poof, up in smoke, all that knowledge gone from the world thanks to bigots.

The Commander of the base, the civilian Mayor, the Vice Mayor and every Lieutenant thinks they are what keeps this station in the sky. Of course, that would be my doing too. Have you not guessed who I am yet? Yes, Yes, I am Mother Nature but I’m just the cook here. I’m making one of my favorite dishes, Baked Roots. You chop up a bunch of carrots. I like the purple ones but nobody grows those anymore, alas. Then you chop up a bunch of potatoes. Oh any kind will do, but I like the red ones. Maybe I just like bright colors. Back to the recipe, don’t peel them now, that potato peeling is nutritious and delicious. Then, ya gotta add some onions. Cutting onions even makes me cry, so I like the little bulb green onions you can throw in whole. Then, I toss all those roots in sunflower oil. Oh I know you thought I was going to say olive oil. I’m just not as thrilled with my creation of olives as I am with my creation of sunflowers. I mean they turn their little faces to the Sun God. Ya gotta love that trick. Of course, I add lots of salt. I’m pretty proud of salt too. Sea salt would be my favorite but then that sweetheart Poseidon is such a charmer. Those roots cook till they are soft and starting to burn about the edges. Those black bits are tasty. So don’t take the pan out till they start blackening.

So here I am making Baked Roots. What’s it been, three hundred thousand years or so since the first time I made them back on Earth? Anyway I’m just standing here cooking now, watching Saturn’s rings, hexagon storm, and colorful aurora out my window.”

“You’re making us one of your famous desserts aren’t ya, Cook?”

“Oh Honey, ya know I am. I hollered back to the dishwasher.

Honey, is another of my proudest accomplishments. I mean, it never goes bad, you can eat it after it’s been jarred for hundreds of years. It’s antibiotic and sweet. I’m a big fan of sweets. So I’ll make some Cherokee Honey Cornbread. That’s a grand old recipe of mine. I’m afraid the pantry here on the station doesn’t have bear fat. I’ll substitute milk, eggs, and butter. Just mix all that goodness with cornmeal, flour, whole corn, and lots of honey. Fry drops of that up in some more sunflower oil. Then drizzle them with more butter and honey. Corn cookies, who’d have thought of that? I did, of course.

So, while I’m making the Baked Roots and Cherokee Honey CornBread Cookies, I’ll tell you what the problem is before it destroys the station. I know, you think I should tell those station uppity-ups. I’m telling you, because you aren’t here. I can’t tell anyone here. I can never tell anyone here. That is the second constant. The first constant being, I’m always the cook.

So, I can tell you, we need help, here on the station. All those uppity-ups think they keep it in Saturn’s sky…but I do. Well, not exactly. That is the problem. What keeps us in Saturn’s sky, and Saturn orbiting the Sun, and him orbiting the Milky Way’s black hole center…what makes all that work is lots of magic. Yes, nowadays y’all call it science. Okay, it’s lots of science. It’s gravity, electromagnetic energy, dark matter, quantum strings, and things human’s haven’t discovered yet. I created them all eons ago but I forgot. Yes, I forgot. I’ve worked so much magic, ah… science, for so many billions of years that I can’t remember most of it.

Ya see that hexagon storm there on Saturn’s north pole? It doesn’t look right. I know to you it seems the normal mysterious swirling enigma it has been ever since humans discovered it. I don’t remember why or how but I can just tell it’s about to jerk this station outta Saturn’s sky. So I need your help.”

“Hey, Cook!” The dishwasher called across the kitchen again. “We still got that case of bacon. Can you make us some of your Bacon Wrapped Cheese Bomb Burgers tomorrow?”

“Yes, sir, I sure can.

If we are here tomorrow, I’ll make that boy the best Bacon Wrapped Cheese Bomb Burgers ever. Oh they aren’t as fancy as they sound. You just wrap ground turkey around a little hunk of swiss cheese, and pat it out into a burger patty. Then ya wrap bacon, in a basket weave pattern, to cover the whole burger. Light up your grill. Don’t make me tell you not to use a gas grill. You need some charcoal. Then slather some honey BBQ sauce over that burger and you are in love. Did I mention how proud I am of honey?

Anyway, so you gotta save us before I can cook those tomorrow. Why are you just looking at the screen? We need help. You gotta get the storm down there to stop threatening to do whatever it’s threatening to do that I forget why it is doing.

* * *

I’m not known for my patience but I’ve given ya a pause here. What do we do to save the station?

I just don’t remember. You have no idea how many things I’ve dreamed up and created all over the whole universe, not just here but for trillions of years before this star system even formed. I have been cooking up life. Life. Literally. I made life.

So I am unimaginably old. I forget things. Yes, I can recall clearly making that pork with cherries on the first fire built by one of you cute little humans. It is just fatty cuts of pork chops, grilled with pitted cherries, simple as can be.

What’s the storm recipe, you say? What was my recipe for the hexagon storm on Saturn? Well, I never thought of it like that. It wasn’t a recipe. I wasn’t cooking food then. I was doing magic…ah…science. Okay, I’ll think of it like a recipe. Let’s see. There’s the magnetic energy of the pole that’s kinda like how ya cook something over a fire …and the chemicals in the atmosphere are kinda like ingredients. That means the bubbling around the six bends is just where it’s been cooking by itself too long.

It just needs stirring! If we can get, say a comet, to swoop down and just stir through that mess a couple times, it’ll settle right down! But, how can we do that? I mean, I made the comets, I know, there are billions of them.”

“Cook, what are you looking at out there, is that casino ship docking?”

“No, keep your wallet closed, honey. It ain’t due till tomorrow.

If I can just remember how to call it, the closest comet out there should be able to zoom down here in a minute flat. Yes, yes, you are right, think of it as a recipe again.

Okay, I need its name, but I know that. It’s the one I called Purr cause it purred like a cat. I love cats. Did I mention that…oh you are right, back to the recipe. So I need to send Purr the comet down to stir up Saturn’s Hexagon Storm. Then what? Season to taste. In this case though, I need to over season it so it stirs that storm back into shape and spits out Purr. What can I over season it with? …Gluons! Yes, lots and lots of gluons should do it. Wait, watch this!

* * *

Look at me go! Did you see it? The comet? Look down there, it’s bouncing around the storm, stirring it like a big ole wooden spoon. There it goes, finished stirring, shooting back out to its proper spot in space. Look at that storm now! My perfect, beautiful, and calm hexagon storm. Nature is awesome, if I say so myself. Couldn’t have done it without ya, though. Thanks for the help. Make yourself one of my recipes as a reward.”

Ginger Strivelli is an artist and writer from North Carolina. She has written for Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine, Autism Parenting Magazine, Flash Fiction Magazine, Green Egg Magazine, Circle Magazine, Third Flatiron, Jokes Review, The New Accelerator, and several other publications.

Image via Pixabay

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